- Paperback: 197 pages
- Publisher: Eerdmans; 15th ptg. edition (May 18, 1981)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802860605
- ISBN-13: 978-0802860606
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Phantastes Paperback – May 18, 1981
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"I was dead, and right content," the narrator says in the penultimate chapter of Phantastes. C.S. Lewis said that upon reading this astonishing 19th-century fairy tale he "had crossed a great frontier," and numerous others both before and since have felt similarly. In MacDonald's fairy tales, both those for children and (like this one) those for adults, the "fairy land" clearly represents the spiritual world, or our own world revealed in all of its depth and meaning. At times almost forthrightly allegorical, at other times richly dreamlike (and indeed having a close connection to the symbolic world of dreams), this story of a young man who finds himself on a long journey through a land of fantasy is more truly the story of the spiritual quest that is at the core of his life's work, a quest that must end with the ultimate surrender of the self. The glory of MacDonald's work is that this surrender is both hard won (or lost!) and yet rippling with joy when at last experienced. As the narrator says of a heavenly woman in this tale, "She knew something too good to be told." One senses the same of the author himself. --Doug Thorpe
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately the plot is too disjointed and directionless to earn much of a recommendation from me. Anodos (the first-person protagonist) wanders from place to place without any clear purpose or motive. MacDonald abandons his tale for entire chapters to tell other stories from books that Anodos finds in his wanderings. It is also chock-full of painfully sentimental doggerel; MacDonald was definitely NOT a good poet, but he attempts to make up for it with sheer volume. He's also obviously VERY fond of women ... maybe that kind of thing went over well in 1857, but given my 21st-century viewpoint, a lot of Anodos' fawning comes across vaguely creepy. At times the story takes on heavy overtones of Moral Allegory, though I would guess (strictly from hints in the book) that MacDonald was a Deist or a Spiritualist. "Phantastes" definitely has a thread of mysticism running through it.
This is an unusual, quaint, slightly hallucinatory book - but since the plot is not "entertaining" by any conventional fiction-writing standard, I can't recommend it as anything more than a historical curiosity. Three stars; neither good nor bad.
Sometimes the language and images are gorgeous, sometimes not. We certainly see the cauldron out of which came 'The Princess and the Goblin' and MacDonald's other more familiar works--the beautiful woman of incredible old age, the healing bath, the fire that does not burn........'Open the eyes of your heart,' he is always urging, 'and see the miracles hidden everywhere.'
The fairies Adonis encounters would not be recognised by Tinkerbell as those of a like breed. The reader gradually discovers that each of them is more a servant of the King assigned to set the aimless wanderer on the path to true manhood.
There are likely many reasons why C.S. Lewis would later write of Phantastes that it was the book that baptised his imagination. The reader of this particular MacDonald masterpiece can expect a good dousing.
I found myself struggling at first, not being a regular reader of the fantasy genre. As I read this story, I, like so many have alluded to above, found the story to be a bit uneven, or disjointed. Still, the symbolism of some episoides intrigued me, and kept me going. The more I read, the more enjoyable and delightful it became. Over all the book is very entertaining, and even edifying. I rarely say this about a read, but I was encouraged after reading this book.
There are parts of this book, lines, paragraphs, and even one chapter, where the authors words approach the masterpiece level. His word-craft is superb at moments and should not be missed.